"When You Change the Life of a Woman, You Change a Nation": Analyzing the Experiences of Indigenous Women's Organizations and Organizers in Canada
Since the point of first contact, Indigenous women on Turtle Island have been actively resisting colonial gendered violence. Their organizing reached a watershed moment in the 1970s when many women came together to cohesively resist the enshrined racism and sexism within Indian Affairs policy and legislation. This early organizing was seen as Indigenous women “waking up to their [traditional] responsibilities” (Maracle, 2003, p. 75), which ultimately spurred the creation of organizations that specifically support Indigenous women and their issues. Today, Indigenous women’s organizational and organizing work continues to grow at rapid rates, which underscores the important role that they play in advancing the rights of Indigenous women and promoting the well-being of their communities. Yet, despite the significant amount of work Indigenous women carry out, they continue to experience intricate challenges organizing due to the settler colonial state they are operating within, where they have been persistently excluded, silenced and surveilled. This thesis will interrogate these challenges that Indigenous women face when they organize. This will be done through exploring Indigenous women’s experiences through a settler colonial governmentality lens that centres Indigenous women’s perspectives. The utilization of this framework will reveal that the settler colonial state is threatened by the existence of Indigenous women and therefore uses governmentality tactics to maintain power and control over them and their work. At the same time, it will also be demonstrated that Indigenous women’s organizations and organizers courageously confront these challenges so that they can continue to support Indigenous women, girls and their communities.
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